By now most people who read this blog have heard about Jesus Christ. You have heard about His teachings about love and forgiveness, and you have heard about the Church He established. You have heard how Jesus calls us to a different life, a life of repentance and divine grace. You have heard that no matter how bad the past has been in your life, there is always hope for the future. You have also heard that Jesus expects more from us the more that we grow closer to Him, and that sometimes it becomes increasingly difficult to choose Christ over the world.
Let’s face it. We all have done or said something for which we need to be forgiven. What we do might be unique to our situation, but the truth that we all do and say things that we should not have said or done cannot be denied. Hopefully, our family and friends forgive our momentary lapse in judgement, and our relationships move forward. But what if we aren’t forgiven? What if our family and friends refuse to forgive us? Would we feel an injustice has been done? Afterall, our mistake wasn’t intentional; it was a momentary lapse in judgement.
When we pick up our Bible and begin to read, we are faced with a challenge from God. The challenges are sometimes simple statements, but if we are genuine in our love for God, they are most often a conviction that we are not living quite like we should. He commands us to love, but we know we could always love more. He commands that we should not judge others, and we find ourselves standing in judgment just about every day. He commands us to feed, visit, clothe, offer a drink, house, cure, teach, baptize, etc. We may ask ourselves, is every word meant for me?
More often than not, when I am discussing Church participation with others I hear some variation of, “Not as often as I should.” It rarely matters what aspect of Church participation we are discussing, the response is often the same. Then there are the few that respond with, “I don’t really think we need to come to Church. I believe. The Church has too many rules to follow. God said, ‘Just believe’ and that should be enough.
If you have lived more than a few years of life, you know that life has its storms. There are times in our life when things just don’t work the way we would have hoped. Sometimes due to our own miscalculations, and at other times the storms come from circumstances beyond our control, we find ourselves in the midst of serious struggle thinking we may not survive to see the end. We begin to panic.
There is an old saying, “Just because you sit in the garage doesn’t make you a car.” Well, I don’t really know if it is an old saying, but I heard it a long time ago, and I’ll admit I always heard it along with, “And just because you sit in Church doesn’t make you Christian.” There are many who profess to be Christians, even Orthodox Christians, who seldom if ever find themselves in Church or living the Christian life. Have you ever wondered if it is even possible to be a Christian in “name only”?
I remember one time I was asked why we fast for the Feast of Annunciation. I responded, “We don’t. We eat fish!” If every time you fast, you simple don’t eat meat, then you would never appreciate the depth of my response, because on the Feast of Annunciation, we feast by eating fish while still not eating meat, dairy or eggs.
As Christians we are called to live in the world but not be of the world. We are expected to live without being weighed down by the physical blessings that surround our lives. We are invited to be willing to leave it all behind to follow Christ. We are called to be saints!
On the Feast of Pentecost, the Church recalls the promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit to guide and protect the Church in all truth. If we believe in Christ and His Holy Spirit, life will flow from our hearts like rivers of living water. Two thousand years ago some chose to deny Christ and trusted their own truth, but Christ is the Truth and the Holy Spirit has guided the Church to maintain this truth. It is a truth we can trust.
During this period between Ascension and Pentecost, when the Church is “waiting” for the coming of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that the Holy Apostles were anxious about the wait. We must keep in mind they thought the coming of the Messiah would mean the end to their suffering. They thought (this explains Judas’ fervor for rushing the process) that the oppression from the Romans would end now that Christ had arrived. They were wrong, and they were anxious.